Vaccitech, an Oxford spinout company, has raised £10m (~$14.45m) in order to push a universal flu vaccine, among others through clinical trials. The vaccine is targeting towards individuals who are 65 and over. This will be an improvement to the current injections offered that provide protection against seasonal flu. Another very important projects being worked on are clinical stage therapeutic vaccines for prostate cancer.
There is currently not any single vaccination that can offer full immunity to the greater part of flu virus strains. Current vaccines are created for each flu season using predictions that are based on the previous year. This method of prediction is difficult and not very effective. The US Centre for Disease Control records show that in 2013 and 2014, the protection rate fell as low as 3-4%. Every single year anywhere from 250,000 to 500,000 people, especially young children and the elderly, will die. Many others will come down with severe diseases due to the yearly outbreaks.
Professor Adrian Hill and Sarah Gilbert are the team leaders at the The Jenner Institute. Gilbert says the clinical trials for the universal vaccine in particular show great promise, proving to be safe and providing great clinical responses. Many adults are showing protection against the flu even after a year from the vaccination date.
The team is currently planning a Phase IIb that will include 1,500 patient trials later on this year which will bring researchers one step closer to getting approved. The vaccine fights well against the flu because of two targeted proteins within the virus that never change. Because of this, the virus is expected to work with all human, avian and swine influenza strains.
Professor Hill says the new cancer therapies (known as “checkpoint inhibitor”) are extremely effective when it comes to helping the immune system to both identify and attack tumor cells. Vaccinations are able to pinpoint cancer antigens, invoking a response from the immune system. This is why vaccinations work great when combined with current treatments, bringing the success rate of cancer immunotherapies up even higher. Hill says Vaccitech’s vaccination stimulates the body, causing it to form an attack against a unique tumor protein that is commonly found in those with prostate, renal, colorectal or lung cancers. Currently, a Phase I/II study is underway that will take a look at the safety as well as effectiveness of the vaccine in men with intermediate or low risk of prostate cancer.
Dr. Adam Stoten, Isis Innovation Head of Technology Transfer and interim Chairman of Vaccitech, says there is a strong need for new vaccinations in order to manage infectious diseases, cancer and other conditions that are seriously affecting our world today. He says vaccines are the most cost effective medical resource, with new Vaccitech technology alone offering the potential to save thousands of lives every single year. Their next main focus will be pre-clinical programs that will include a vaccination for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (or MERS), a virus that holds a scary 36% mortality rate.